Travel Light Packing List – 8 Essential Tips

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If you have to sit on your suitcase to close it, then perhaps you need some revisions to what’s on your travel light packing list.

Packing light is an acquired skill that anyone can learn, and it doesn’t mean that you need to sacrifice things like style, convenience or comfort.  You just need a few tips on exactly what to include on that all-important packing list.

What Does Traveling Light Mean?

Traveling light, or without much luggage, means something a bit different for everyone.  If you’re someone who normally takes 3 large suitcases on a one-week trip, then traveling light or packing light might mean paring that down to just one large suitcase.

If however, you get by perfectly on one large suitcase for that same one-week trip but you’re tired of lugging the heavy thing around, then packing light to you might mean paring down to just a carry-on bag.

Many things will factor into what needs to get packed, such as destination, weather, length of trip, and activities planned while you’re traveling.

Can You Travel Light and Still Look Good?

Ladies, you’re probably the ones asking this question, right?

I feel your pain!  I personally am a recovering packamaniac that used to pack absolutely everything that I “might” need.  I didn’t spend enough time focusing on only what I “would” need, and consequently, my suitcase was always to big, too full and too heavy, not to mention the anxiety I would experience when I arrived at the airline check-in desk where the luggage has to be weighed.

Some tips to putting together the perfect ultralight travel wardrobe:

  • Focus on the needs, not the wants.
  • Only pack items you will wear more than once.
  • Don’t thing about complete outfits.  Think about basic pieces.
  • Stick with neutral colors for your basic pieces.
  • Jazz things up with colorful accessories, like scarves.
  • Pack for a week (no longer) and do the laundry.

Travel Light Packing List Essentials

So even though the ultralight travel wardrobe tip list above sounds pretty simple, you still may have no idea what to pack.

Here are some items that are essential to keeping your travel light packing list “light”.

1. Ultralight Luggage

First things first! Remember that the weight of all the stuff you’re packing starts with the actual suitcase. If you’re adding 10+ lbs with the suitcase alone, well, you’ve just got nowhere to go but up from there, right?

Make sure that you’re using what’s considered an ultralight suitcase. Like this one.

Bric's Riccione 27 Inch Ultra-Light Medium Spinner, Silver, One Size

Weighing in at just 7.5 lbs for a 27-inch spinner suitcase, this ultralight piece of luggage will make traveling light a total breeze.

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2. Ultralight Carry-On

Now that you’ve solved your check-in bag weight problem, let’s move on to your carry-on bag. Carry-on’s seem so small when they’re empty and we’re not dashing through an airport. But, stuff that baby full and try and sprint across a giant airport when you’re late for a flight, and guess what?

Yep, you got it. It suddenly seems like you’re lugging a ton of bricks around in your small little carry-on.

No sense in letting that happen. There are plenty of options available for ultralight carry-on bags that will make it much easier. Here are a few that could work wonders!

Lucas Ultra Lightweight Carry On - Expandable Softside 20 Inch Luggage - Small Rolling Bag Fits Most Airline Compartments - Durable 8-Spinner Wheels Suitcase (Royal Blue)

Ultra-lightweight and expandable 20-inch spinner carry-on built for both comfort and convenience.

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Aer de Aer Premium Carry On Luggage Spinner - Super Light Weight, Maximum Capacity - The Carry On, Re-Imagined, Jet Black

This super lightweight carry-on spinner will make moving around big airports with your carry-on bag completely effortless.

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3. Personal Item

Don’t forget about your personal item. That’s that +1 you hear about from the airline. Sort of like a wedding invite +1, which means you can bring a guest, right?

You usually get 1 carry-on bag plus 1 personal item. That’s like a briefcase or a computer. Ladies, this rule is really pretty unfair for those of us who travel with a carry-on, a computer and a purse, isn’t it?

Here’s how to solve that.

Consolidate that +1.

Use a carry-on that can hold it all, the computer, the purse, and everything. That’s one idea. The other idea is to simply consolidate the purse and the +1. Try using a backpack for the computer and shove the purse in there while you’re boarding. It works!

My favorite option is to consolidate everything into one carry-on spinner because just one bag makes it so much easier going through security checkpoints.

4. The Right Type of Clothing

When you’re choosing what clothes to pack for your trip, be sure to include mostly fabrics that are lightweight and dry fast. This includes polyester, spandex, nylon, and silk blends. Fabrics that include cotton are going to be a bit heavier and will not dry as fast. And bulky and heavy items of wool, or fleece…well, they just aren’t candidates for quick dry at all.

Athleisure wear, or, the types of clothing you might wear in a gym, are excellent options for casual wear while traveling and wash and dry really easily. Like this as an example:

90 Degree By Reflex Women’s Lightweight, Full Zip Running Track Jacket

Athleisure wear like this running jacket by 90 Degree makes packing less easier. Choose fabrics that can be packed easily, without wrinkles, and washed and air-dried if necessary.

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As for warmer clothing and outer wear, plan your wardrobe around layering. Think packable clothing no matter what.

There are great options now for packable outerwear that’s super light and super warm, and you can simply roll it up in your suitcase or carry-on and it comes out looking like new.

5. Shoes

This is a difficult one, I know!

My advice for shoes is….

Pack the need, and forget the want.

The type of shoes needed will obviously vary depending on the typ of trip you’re taking. But it’s so easy to overpack with shoes. And just don’t do it.

One good pair of walking shoes, and one alternate pair that’s flexible and can fit more than one occasion whether it’s daytime wear or dinner. Wear your biggest, heaviest shoes when you’re traveling, if possible so you can keep them out of your suitcase or carry-on.

6. Toiletries

My advice regarding toiletries is to leave them behind and purchase them locally upon arrival at your destination.

This advice excludes things like medication and pain relievers. Always take your prescription medications with you (in your carry-on) and bring pain relievers with you in a mini-pharmacy emergency pack.

If you can’t stand the thought of traveling without your own shampoo and conditioner, be sure and use solids. I discovered solids a few years ago and love them! No liquids to worry about going through security, and nothing to spill inside my checked luggage.

Solid Shampoo and Conditioner bar set, Organic Ingredients, All Hair Types, Sulfate-Free, Cruelty-Free & Vegan. One 3 ounce and one 2.3 ounce bars (Citrus)

If you feel you must travel with your shampoo and conditioner, make sure it's solid so you don't have an issue with liquid going through security or liquid spilling into your suitcase and making a mess on your clothes.

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7. Packing Cubes or Packing Sacks

Use packing cubes or packing sacks to keep your stuff organized and maximize the space in your luggage.

8. Do the Laundry

The final tip on keeping the travel light packing list “light”, is to simply do the laundry.

Regardless of the length of your trip, pack for a week and do the laundry.

If you’re fortunate enough to have access to real laundry facilities, then pack these:

Tide PODS Free and Gentle, Laundry Detergent Soap PODS, HE, 96 Count - Unscented and Hypoallergenic for Sensitive Skin, Free and Clear of Dyes and Perfumes

The perfect thing to pack if you're planning to do laundry on vacation. No liquid to spill inside your luggage, and easy to take just as many as you'll need.

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No laundry facilites?

There’s always the sink! These work wonders with washing a few necessities out in the sink.

Tide Travel Sink Packets 3ct Laundry Detergent for Hiking, RV, Camping, Backpacking, Outdoors, International (Pack of 4)

Don't leave home without these handy Tide Travel Sink Packets. Makes it so easy to wash a few items in a sink! These should be an essential item on your Travel Light Packing List.

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I hope this will help you keep your travel light packing list really light!


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Mary Emmer
Mary Emmer

About the Author

Mary is an online entrepreneur here at Still en Route where she uses her knowledge from a travel industry career beginning in 1984 to write about everything travel-related, sometimes with a baby boomer twist!  Read more.

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